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Together with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), and ThinkPlace, Isle Utilities has established a world-leading technology and innovation program, W-Lab. W-Lab’s vision is to create a confident and secure water industry empowered by emerging technology, to unite the water industry in strategic problem solving, and to foster innovative cross-sector collaboration.

Driven by the water industry, in W-Lab’s first year, a Roadmap was created to present solutions to meet the industry needs, using innovative technologies.

The roadmap initially identified what the key challenges to the local water industry were in four defined innovation frames:

  • Flows (circular economy)
  • Nature (extraction of water from nature)
  • Enterprise (optimising utilities’ internal processes such as asset management and work-flow management)
  • Customer

The W-Lab program has achieved incredible advances for the local water sector since 2020, engaging over 300 utility staff members to bring the Technology Roadmap to life.

Following a recent Ideation Summit, the initial Roadmap has been reviewed, renewed, and refreshed by W-Lab members to provide superior support to the Australian and New Zealand water industries in meeting their goals through innovation.

Manager Environment and Technology Research for WSAA, Jason Mingo, said, “The new Roadmap is a blueprint for the Australian and New Zealand water industries, which they can use as a resource to drive important discussions on how the water industry needs to innovate internally, in the boardroom and with their key stakeholders and to further guide principles for industry collaboration”.

Dr Kelly Hill, W-Lab Lead, and Senior Consultant at Isle Utilities, said, “A major part of W-Lab is to source technologies and solutions that have the most potential to progressively propel the local water industry to fulfil its collective vision.

“Isle has been able to use our global reach to match those challenges with technologies and solutions from around the world to create bespoke solutions for the water sector.

“Once these technologies have been sourced, water utilities collaborate in evaluating and trialling solutions, which helps them to build the business case for solutions with the most potential to achieve their specific objectives”, said Dr Hill.

Pillars of Intent

Executives from across the W-Lab membership were invited to share their perspectives on how W-Lab could provide more value in embedding innovation and technologies to help meet strategic priorities in organisations and gather organisational buy-in.

These key pillars of intent were consolidated into the roadmap to set up the W-Lab program structure to achieve success over the next two years:

Ideate

  • Align the Roadmap to achieve customer-centric outcomes
  • Address business risks by converting them into strategic opportunities for innovation

Incubate

  • Bring leading technology and innovation practices from other industries to the water sector
  • Understand the risk tolerance from the business and how they apply across the opportunity areas

Accelerate

  • Link the value proposition from innovative and emerging technologies across the globe to strategic business outcomes in Australia and New Zealand
  • Consider the role that W-Lab could play in developing emerging technology, including incubation of start-ups

Communicate

  • Provide information to enable executives to make appropriate decisions
  • Create greater integration of W-Lab within the organisations

W-Lab Opportunities

Understanding the strategic drivers and industry intent, combined with the individual challenges of each W-Lab member, experience shows that many of these challenges are shared by others in the industry, from the smallest to the largest organisations

The key challenge areas identified by W-Lab members, in the four designated themes are:

Flow

  • How to actively reduce our carbon footprint?
  • How might we explore new markets and recover value from waste?
  • How to track our progress towards net zero?

Enterprise

  • How to keep our people safe and well?
  • How might we improve operations and decision-making through automation and data-driven insights?
  • How might we use data to understand the diverse customer and community needs and provide value to them?

Nature

  • How to integrate natural systems and solutions for adaptation in improved water management?
  • How might we limit our extraction from the natural environment?
  • How to monitor and measure water quality?
  • How might we improve asset management to protect the environment?

Customer

  • How might we empower positive customer behaviour so that they can take control of water use in their homes?
  • How to meet community needs through decentralised solutions?
  • How might we understand and support the diverse needs of our customers?
  • How to collaborate across sectors and share data which can be used by us, our partners, and communities?

W-Lab Showcases

The W-Lab Showcases leverage Isle Utilities’ global innovation network of the world’s leading water industry end users, with over 250+ members, and expert technology consultants from around the globe conducting comprehensive appraisal of emerging technologies. 

From hundreds of technology vendors, technology organisations sourced by Isle Utilities that have created potential solutions with the greatest potential for the local water sector are invited to present at Showcase Events. Over the next year showcases will be conducted for W-Lab Members on:

  • Actively reducing our carbon footprint
  • How to keep our people safe and well
  • Integrating natural systems and solutions for improved water management
  • Empowering customers to take control of water use in their home

W-Lab also conducts a fortnightly webinar series to further examine solutions through technology.

Success for W-Lab Members

“Given the high degree of collaboration between industry members, the community and innovators outside the water industry, success of the W-Lab program is assured”, Dr Kelly said.

Dr Kelly said a successful implementation of the roadmap will achieve:

  • Lower costs through innovative approaches to maintain and modernise our
  • infrastructure
  • Enable the local water sector to remain relevant as an equitable provider of essential services in our regions
  • Superior service delivery to ever-evolving customer expectations
  • Improved care for the environment
  • Advances in the safety and wellbeing of our workforce
  • Improved response to increased climate variability and population growth

“It’s a very exciting time for the Australian and New Zealand water industries,” Dr Kelly said.

“13 local water utilities are already in various stages of conducting eleven collaborative technology trial opportunities, with details to be released in the near future.”

Details of the revised W-Lab Roadmap are available on a video created by Anna Jackson, CEO at Unitywater, at https://f.io/c554b7P5

For more information, or to join W-Lab, please contact Dr Kelly Hill, Isle Utilities at [email protected]

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